Women as sex symbols: How different can the representation of women\’s body in advertising in men and women\’s magazines be?

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Chapter I: Introduction

Advertising since its inception has used women to attract consumers. It has tried to persuade the consumer and catch them in their product using the woman as an object to promote something. Although the woman is used as a powerful symbol in advertising, as society has considered or is related to harmony, tranquility and softness that manages in its way of being, it is also seen as a sex symbol that is capable of attracting attention of all men and so draw their attention to a product which is being shaped by it to have an impact on the consumer and this in turn is welcomed (Baker: 2005).

The improper use of women in advertising has stopped selling a feminine image of women and it has been selling a sexual image. It is a fact that shapely female bodies are employed by advertising agencies with a double meaning. Not simply to promote a product and it reaches the success, but to first capture the eye of male spectator, later to arrive at the true goal, the goal of the ad, brand and product that is to be sold (Busby & Leichty: 1993). Therefore it is important to know what happened for years in society regarding the use and title that is being given to women. This is a problem that concerns society as messages that really leave and teaching is not to admire the woman for what it really is, but to reduce the woman to an “object” that puts their body and beauty at the service of men (Blond: 2008).

The use of women as sex symbol is a common practice in advertising, a fact that allows linking induces consumer expectations of satisfaction of the sexual needs, and of any kind, the possession and use of certain objects. Advertising which uses erotic language uses full of insinuations, innuendoes and ellipses, because this way avoids the danger of wounding the modesty of the audience and also plays with the imagination of the receiver, serving tray with subtle suggestions (Baker: 2005).

Since the last quarter of the twentieth century, women have been introduced in the workplace, political and socioeconomic with strength and increasing professionalism. However, the press continues to treat it as if none of this had happened; advertising still reflecting stereotypes, giving different roles to men and women (Lindner: 2004). The media want to reach people giving an image of women that although liberated and modern, reveals only her-sexual erotic aspect that makes it an object of use to man (Blond: 2008).

These images of half-naked or nude women which can be found in abundance in men’s as well as women’s magazines have given more strength to this stereotype of women as a sex symbol. These images stress the perception that women are meant to fulfill the sexual desire of men and on the other hand, require ordinary women to take a role of sexual aggression to be increasingly valued by man. She becomes, to accept it, the object of desire (Vaes et al: 2011). The erotic images of women in women’s magazines urge women to appear as the woman ten o’clock, the woman who thinks she will get the maximum personal fulfillment through sexual experiences, or by the constant and inexhaustible purchase of beauty products, or different clothes show the very latest trends (Frith et al: 2005). Proof of this is found on newsstands every day when we browse the different covers of the magazines allegedly targeting women. Such as Glamour, Clara, AR, Elle (” Elle brings every month all the fashion, trends and tricks for the woman who likes to keep up … discover the pleasure of being a woman … “) (Kilbourne: 2012).

Men’s magazines exert heterosexist gender violence that threatens the life, liberty and human rights of women. In spite of the above, there are publications which are widely consumed by people of different ages, those that use them as part of their daily “entertainment” and her male conformation, because through these publications they get a generic approach to be as heterosexual men (Davis, 1990).

The way women are presented in these journals realizes degradation and gender oppression from which they are subjected to “satisfy” the male gaze (Collins: 2011). Oppression is legitimized from the patriarchal nation-state to allow free movement and production of these materials. This fact can only be understood from the unholy alliance brought by patriarchy and capitalism in contemporary societies (Baker: 2005).

Research Aim:

The aim of the current research is to analyze the use of women’s body in advertising in magazines and to identify how men’s and women’s magazines are and can be different in representing women’s images.

Research Objectives:

The objectives of the current research are to:

  • Analyze the representation of women’s body in advertising
  • Find out the concept of the phrase ‘objectifying women’ or ‘women as an object’.
  • Identify the use of women’s body in advertisements in men’s magazines
  • Examine the representation of women’s body in advertisements in women’s magazine
  • Determine the difference in using women images for advertising between men’s and women’s magazines.
  • To identify the consequences of the representation of women’s images in men’s and women’s magazines.

Research Structure

This research will be divided into five chapters:

Chapter 1 – Introduction: Introduce the topic of the research and presented the research aims and objectives that will work as the heart of the study

Chapter 2 – Literature Review: Present a detailed literature review analysis on the topic, focusing on various studies undertaken in the past

Chapter 3 – Methodology: Focus on detailing the methods used to collect and analyse the data for this research.

Chapter 4 – Results and Discussion: Present the results and the interpretation of the gathered data along with discussion.

Chapter 5 – Conclusion

Chapter Two: Literature Review

Although there is nothing new, research has revealed that the sexualization of women in popular media has constantly increased over the last 40 years. The provocative pictures of naked or scantily clad women are particularly abundant in advertising. Shari Graydon, a former President of Media Watch, says that advertising sexualized female bodies to better attract public attention. Women become sexual objects from the time when their bodies and their sexuality are associated with goods (Vaes et al: 2011).

Jean Kilbourne, activist women’s image in the media, agrees. She points out that advertisements often present women’s bodies in isolated pictures – legs, breasts or thighs. The choice of images only reinforces the idea that they are objects rather than human beings (Kilbourne: 2012).

Although women’s sexuality is no longer a taboo subject, many researchers question whether the outrageous sexualisation of the female body in the media is really liberating (Kuhn: 2013). Laurie Abraham, editor of Elle magazine, said that the biggest problem with women’s magazines is the amount of lies they spread about sexuality. These “lies” continue to perpetuate the idea that female sexuality is incidental to the male pleasure. For example, as part of its study of Cosmopolitan and Playboy magazines (http://www.beautyredefined.net/cosmo-magazine/), Nicole Krassas found that men’s and women’s magazines contain a single vision of female sexuality – that the main concern of women should be to attract and to sexually satisfy men (Jacobus et al: 2013).

The presence of disinformation and media stereotypes is troubling because research shows that young people often use the media to get information about sex and sexuality (Durham: 1998). In 2003, David Buckingham and Sara Bragg indicated that two thirds of young people turned to the media when they wanted to know more about sex (Kuhn: 2013).

A frequent inconsistency can be observed in the text describing the product offered and the image used as bait. In this sense, it gives a complete asymmetry in the treatment of men and women, because from the beginning, advertising techniques considered to be the most beautiful woman of her achievements but also have been seen as the best means to their own ends (Jacobus et al: 2013). It has been considered “advertising” woman in a double sense: as a recipient of the products that claim to sell, and as a beautiful ornament and persuasive to promote the most varied consumer goods market vehicle, from alcoholic beverages to automobiles, to airlines, or cameras (Blond: 2008).

In addition it is curious that the image of the woman appears either in texts in which the recipient is male, female or both. When used as an advertising resource, it usually displayed the full figure of the woman, naked or half-naked, in sensual and friendly attitude, occupying the foreground, even when what is offered is unrelated to appearance, the dress … in general, with the image (Ferguson et al: 1990).

Directed specifically at women advertising, is filtered a social conception that considered necessary complement of man, which should be their lover, their servant and their ornament, their piece and trophy hunting. To do women should worry about getting overactive sparkling jewels and detergents; smooth and shiny hair ( Marie Claire , July, 2005), remove fluid per day, burn fat at night, tiny dress, exotic and bold undies (Maxim, December, 2004) as well as the latest creams with magical effects from overseas and the latest fashion dresses (Baker: 2005).

Many researchers argue that the overrepresentation of slim women in the mass media reinforces the conclusion that physically attractive and sexually desirable mean thin. A study of female magazine covers shows that messages about weight loss are often placed close to those on men and relationships (Young: 2005). Some of the examples are: “Get the body you really want” next to “How to make your husband really listens to you” and “Stay thin” paired with “What men really want” (Bordo: 2003).

Love often has a dark side. As stated Shari Graydon, media infantilize women by giving them a childlike appearance, innocent and vulnerable. The vulnerability is often closely linked to the risk of a potential victim of violence. Jean Kilbourne argues that advertisements such as the Fetish perfume suggest that “women do not really mean” no “when they say, but they resist the advances of men for the sole purpose of turning them.” Here is what the advertising text: “Apply generously in your neck so that she could smell the scent while she ‘no’ head”. The implication is clear: he will understand that the woman does not really think about and responds to the odor like any other animal (Kilbourne: 2012).

Jean Kilbourne noted that sex in the media is often condemned “a puritanical perspective”: there too, it goes too far, it encourages young people to promiscuity, etc. But, in fact, the media trivialize the more they are promoting sex. This is not a moral problem, but superficiality and cynicism. People are offered a pseudo-sexuality that makes it all the more difficult the quest for their authentic personal sexuality (Kilbourne: 2012).

Display of advertising fashion brands basically holds on non-verbal items: body and inter-space management. In the magazines body display advertising is the main source of nonverbal signals used, along with other elements such as text meager proportions logo brand and some aesthetic and expressive resources such as color or light (Lindner: 2004). Advertising, in addition to being aimed at selling products, has also social relevance as far as it concerns the representations of women, and general audience, it gets around the body determines the perception and values and counter with the self-image and body hetero-image is built (Kilbourne: 2012).

Killing Us Softly

Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women , a film by Jean Kilbourne was one of the first to analyze and denounce sexism advertising (Kilbourne: 2012)

In a 2008 study, approximately 2,000 advertisements from magazines representing women were analyzed. A little over half of them portrayed women as sex objects. Just fewer than 10% of women were as victims, and 73% of these victims were also represented in sexual object. The authors of the study suggest that these representations of women, both victims and sexualized, result of involving female sexuality and pain, and thus trivialize eroticism and violence against women (Vaes et al: 2011).

In a 1998 study on 505 magazines ads, women were depicted as sexual objects in 20.8% of cases (against 9% for men); 12% of advertisements, they were at least partially stripped, and in 8% they adopted a sexual attitude. Finally, it was also shown that women are more often represented in a fragmented way (only one or more parts of the body are represented) than men.

A 2007 study, analyzing video images of characters from the best-selling gaming magazines in the US, showed that 60% of female characters were represented in a sexualized manner, against 1% for male characters. In addition, approximately 39% of the female characters were scantily clad. A slightly more recent study conducted in 2010 covering 489 characters from 60 games magazines, found similar results: the female characters are underrepresented and hypersexualized (Daniels & Wartena: 2011). Only 14% of the characters are female. These women are 41% to be represented scantily clad (11% for men), 43% nude or partially nude (4% for male characters) and 25% with unrealistic proportions (2% for men). About 40% of the female characters are represented with a small waist, and 26% with strong chest. Finally, 16% of female characters wear inappropriate attire for the tasks they had to perform (e.g., a ridiculously opaque armor) (Daniels & Wartena: 2011).

The cultural mediation on the body

Addressing the analysis of female body image in the media is interesting because it is an unavoidable aspect of people’s daily experience: their existence is sustained by the experience of the body and also serves to relate to others and the world; the life as social beings part a psychobiological and cultural perception of corporeality (Ferguson et al: 1990). In this regard, the experience of embodiment is determined by the functional constraints but also by society and culture. In other words, this perception related to its size and shape (complexion), limitations (example by age or any pathologies) and capacities of the body in each vital moment of the subject and also with the constraints of culture to the extent where historically certain visions of the body are enhanced and inhibit others; therefore people’s perception and experience of the body are mediated culturally (Driscoll: 2013).

A brief historical review shows the different cultural conceptions which have been the subject of corporeality: religions, aesthetic notions, gender differences, have always determined the perception of the body that every moment is presented as desirable. So inquiring today in the advertising proposal is to investigate the current perception around the body to configure from a strategic sector in the media (Busby & Leichty: 1993).

The dynamics of the look

Ruggero Eugeni defines the image as something that does not just affect the representation of the world, but that creates relationships between this world and the viewer. This forms a process of constructing meaning where the eye of the subject depicted is of essential importance. The look, in fact, allows recognizing the relationship between the observer and what is represented (Busby & Leichty: 1993). It determines and provides the position and point of view of the viewer to the image and then the world is watching. The facial expressions of the character represented allow then to infer the gender identity of the viewer, as well as the set of values ​​and qualifications that define it. First, what are the visual dynamics that contribute to the genre in the advertising text; in other words, what kind of eyes are basically used in advertising “feminine” and “masculine”, turning their attention mainly to the female (Lindner: 2004). Then, later, they will be associated with some elements regarding the behaviors and postures of the subject learned by Gender Advertisements and that will help to define better the representation of gender in advertising images (Collins: 2011).

Overview explicitly directed toward the viewer

This is the type of visual model more used in advertising especially for women and those promoting cosmetics. The female subject is facing the viewer and seems to look at them straight in the eye. The look of the character depicted in the image and the viewer coincide. This type of mechanism is called mirrored gaze (Davis: 2013). The model draws the attention of the viewer directly, generally female, and thus reveals a desire to “watch and be watched.” Thanks to its emotional strength, staring, direct and authoritative model is able to create a relationship of involvement and of total identification with the viewer. She is invited, through the emotional element, to identify with the role played by women and to assume the point of view (Lindner: 2004). In this regard it should be noted that the position of existential model back to the product she advertised. Between product and model exists, in fact, a report, unique, evocative: the woman is actually removed, away from any experiential dimension, in a word de-narrative, to exist only as a function of the product and to become pure significant values sign evoked by the product, such as: youth, beauty and femininity (values ​​more inflated advertising female) (Ferguson et al: 1990). The model is beset by the quality of the goods thereby allowing the total identification. The process of objectification of the model corresponds but also a process of personification of the object; the goods leave his garment material to assume a “human” dimension, affective, emotional that is suggested by the woman (Vaes et al: 2011).

Consumption of fashion magazines and effects on body self-perception of women

The influence that advertising has on women and men in industrialized societies is increasing. An important body of academic literature study these effects from the theory of Effects of Third Person and takes as its starting point the preponderance of the social environment in receiving advertising messages: people tend to think that the advertising influences others more than themselves. The scientific literature on this theory seeks to investigate whether this phenomenon is due to overestimates of oneself, to others or underestimates of both processes (Jacobus et al: 2013).

This theory has been applied to the study of various effects: first, studies on the results produced by the reception of advertising, especially in the way of perceiving one’s body found as well as the importance one may have some diseases, including eating disorders (Smolak: 2013). Stepping beyond the specific influence that advertising can have on the perception of the body and the desire of women to be thin, this theory investigates the effects that advertising has or may have on the values, beliefs and opinions, and the way in which people understand the world and its environment (Busby & Leichty: 1993).

From this budget, the public when asked about the influence of advertising on their daily lives forcefully affirms not feel so affected by advertising messages and other “third” persons or groups considered weaker. This principle operates at various scales: men may think that women are more vulnerable to advertising messages themselves, women and adolescents and the same could be said about people of different genders, social position or cultural level (Collins: 2011). In short, the media and its contents exert a greater influence on others than ourselves, according to this theory. Studies from the theory of the effects of the third person show that the long-term effects of advertising on people’s lives are real and effective in all that they are part of society, which still is not so clear is that these provisions were subsequently translated into behaviors (Jacobus et al: 2013).

Moreover, advertising handles certain stereotypes that society tends to accept “how” must be a woman or a man to achieve social or emotional triumph in a society. In the case of female representations these stereotypes often stress values ​​do not reflect the reality of women in all its facets, but ends extract features such as the breakdown of accepted standards, success, emotional triumph, pleasure or risk and neglect other equally or more essential in the life of any person such as friendship, hard work, family or professional life aspects (Lindner: 2004). The theory of the third party also considers the presence of these stereotypes and how they affect the process of creating the personal self-image (Davis: 1990).

Finally, although the results of the experiments are sometimes contradictory, there are studies that show the influence that consumption of fashion magazines has on the ideal of beauty linked to thinness, it is higher in women who are frequent readers of women magazines and fashion trends of major carriers such as advertising fashion-brands (Young: 2005).

Female and real women: taxation or choice?

At this point, some questions arise spontaneously: that feminine is what we see today in the scene? The female bodies that invade the media are freed bodies or bodies prostituted? But, above all, what is the relationship between this “femininity” exalted as a resource, “added value”, and real women? From what emerges an observatory increasingly attentive to the media representation of female -scientific research, publications, journal articles -, but just from what we can see on a daily basis, there is no doubt that there is a return in strength of gender stereotypes, in particular the representation of women as erotic body and body that generates the seduction and maternity (Tasker: 2012).

The mother and the prostitute are the two faces of what Western culture, classical and Christian, considered the “nature” of the woman, is that sexuality. E ‘in essence and in the psychology of the woman’s desire -says Weininger- of “mate”, is that sex for procreation (Kuhn: 2013). At a time when the company itself is doing its “culture of sexual activity”, the exaltation and the commodification of sexuality, also prevails in women “the desire to go from motherhood to prostitution.” (Driscoll: 2013)

The documentary by Lorella Zanardo, Women’s bodies, and the large, meticulous descriptive ago Loredana Lipperini, in his book Still on the side of the girls, of what passes in the blog, in video games, forums, books text, in women’s magazines, advertising, as well as on television, it is clear that the dominant message is what drives the females from childhood, preteens, to turn their attention to the physical, the beauty, and that is, in the final analysis to the body (Daniels & Wartena: 2011).

Popular culture is impregnated by an imagination that brings back the two stereotypes of “genre” more enduring: the seductress and mother. “Are we raising a generation of baby-prostitutes who dress as Lolitas?, asks Lipperini. Women are urged to obtain power with the power of their body, since so far have not owned another. The trump card for success, for a career or a marriage becomes physical beauty, the body as a shortcut to social recognition (Driscoll: 2013).

Weininger speaks of modernity as the “emancipation of prostitutes”. A look at the magazine advertising would lead one to think that he was right. But if the body is erotic, performed, commoditized, that strikes one and angers more, one cannot forget that no less celebrated, albeit in different ways and contexts, is now also the mother’s body as cited by (Frith et al: 2005).

But there is a new element, which cannot be ignored today that women are themselves to step into the shoes that others have sewn for them, to appeal to their advantage -career, success, etc.-those powerful attractions such as the seduction and motherhood, that man has given to them. If the emancipation traditionally understood was the female to escape from a discredited act, today is the female that is emancipated itself (Wolf: 2013). The woman’s body, sexuality take their revenge on history that excluded them and erased, but when they appear in public space, it becomes more evident the signs that this story has left over. It realizes that the figures of “gender” are much more than a script imposed (Collins: 2011).

The transition from a state that has had undergone because imposed by force of power, the law of survival, the ability to actively take it, is not without significance. As controversial and nasty, it must be admitted that it is a form of emancipation. Talk of “choice” does not mean “be free to choose.” (Wolf: 2013) For this, reflecting on women who offer their bodies in exchange for career and money, they make an “object” to the male gaze, entering as a bargaining chip in the relationship between men. If people want to get back to real women, they must have the courage to explore the many ways in which women have been trying to survive, to cope with the roles, with the models imposed, however, to secure some pleasure and power: adaptation, resistance, compensation, powers replacement (Vaes et al: 2011).

Gender difference

In the last two years, people are witnessing the development of legislation to promote equality between women and men in both the state level and at the regional, which represent a considerable advance to correct situations of direct or indirect discrimination still women are subjected (Morry & Staska: 2001). These legislative developments have been welcomed by women’s organizations and trade union forward, rigorous contributions (when it has been able to participate) and the commitment to be aware of their development and provision would budget to implement them (Lindner: 2004).

But when one talks about how the image of women in various fields is used they encounter a very different to what the legislation says, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights actually, because the Women are presented to society as stereotyped objects, differing treatment of their image from that of men (Morry & Staska: 2001).

Men are represented usually linked to science and the company, holders of iconographic assets of our time such as fancy cars, huge mansions or executive offices; the women are usually presented attached to motherhood, the kitchen or the direct or veiled sex. If a woman is portrayed working clothes or adopting attitudes that are associated with “male” appears on occasion (Morry & Staska: 2001).

Women have made substantial progress if the look is thrown back, only forty years when even work outside the home was considered wrong, the proof is in the formal recognition of the “right to be equal,” but that not results in equal treatment for both genders in the world of advertising and therefore consideration as generators of wealth or as objects of consumption (Collins: 2011).

When a claim of sex becomes a derogatory message

In men’s magazines, a mulatto inviting men to enjoy her breasts who try her glass of rum; a provocative stewardess with a scanty skirt used as bait to promote an air carrier; a belly with a tattooed arrow pointing the way toward sex to advertise a brand of whiskey … Sex sells. And advertisers do not hesitate to use it even though in many cases at the cost of denigrating to women (Maine: 2013).

Can an advertiser to suggest the idea that a girl drunk will enjoy her favors? Showing a naked and chained woman as a reward for buying a product? Did not the competent authorities take action against employers who abuse women in their ads, presenting them as mere trophies for those who buy their products? In advertising, the border between sex and sexism is very narrow. And there are many that cross the knowledge and there is no one to stop them (Gill: 2008).

“Surely, this is the only time you’ll want to end up with your bottle of White Label”. The announcement that this phrase belongs to sample a glass of whiskey and ice on the edge of which brands have left carmine lips are. The message is clear. Use alcohol to get the girl. In preparing its messages, the advertising industry often does not stop to think if they cause more than attracting potential customers (Maine: 2013).

An index of sexual objectification: the face-ism

There is another way to have an idea of the degree of objectification of an image: it is the index of “face-ism” which is the ratio of the length occupied by the head and the length occupied by the whole body. The media tend to highlight women’s bodies; these are also often represented headless (Maine: 2013). This clearly indicates that it is considered that woman’s bodies representing them, more than for men. It should be noted however that in some cases, it is women who choose to represent themselves with a low index of face-ism, indicating that they have integrated themselves-the idea that they were sex objects (Vaes et al: 2011).

Moreover, since 1983, it has been shown that people with a strong representation index of “face-ism” are evaluated more positively as regards the intelligence, ambition and physical appearance, that people with a low index. These positive effects of the highlighting of the face in the photographs were confirmed later. However, the “body-ism” of women (the body which occupies much space in the photographs) reinforces the idea that women are trophies or sex objects without personality (Davis: 1990).

Effects of these objectifying representations about body image

Many studies show that these representations are not without objectifying effects on body image. It has been shown that exposure to sexually objectifying media induced an increase of self-objectification , an increased monitoring of body , a feeling of bodily shame and a feeling of anxiety from its appearance , in samples made up of women. This seems especially true for people with low self-esteem (Wolf: 2013). Furthermore, people with a strong sense of themselves, not having internalized the thin ideal, and would have experienced before self-objectification, would avoid contact with such media to protect themselves their deleterious effects (Young: 2005).

Effects of these objectifying representations on the image of women and tolerance to sexual violence

One study showed that when woman – is objectified on an image (via a reduction of the index face-ism, or even downright removing the head) , it is no longer considered quite as a person, that is to say, attributed to him less conscience and people consider it deserves less moral treatment (Maine: 2013). Yet another study indicates that only objectified women are dehumanized by people who watch; the latter had in fact more likely to involve them in the field of animal than human. Moreover, it was also shown that a person is objectified considered less competent, less intelligent, less experienced, less friendly, more immoral and more passive (Vaes et al: 2011).

A study using imaging technology functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) confirmed these results: face images of sexualized women, the activity of medial prefrontal cortex, involved in the awarding of mental states to others (that is to say, in ascribing to others ideas, desires, intentions, beliefs …), decreased in hostile sexist men. It should also be noted in the same study that hostile sexist men associated the sexualized images of women with verbs in the first person, suggesting they viewed them as being rather the object of the action the subject. It was also shown that when participants had seen advertisements depicting women sexually objectified, their adherence to rape myths grew (Vaes et al: 2011).

Another study showed that over a student possessed degrading sexual images of women in his room; the more it would adhere to these rape myths, and justify this crime.  It should be noted that men who adhere to rape myths have higher propensity to rape. Finally, a study  has also shown that when men exposed to images of stereotypical female images (including for the half hypersexualized female characters), their tolerance for sexual harassment increased (Nam et al: 2011). Conversely, such images reduced tolerance to harassment of women, perhaps because the face of such representations, they felt particularly revolted against the treatment reserved for them in our society (Maine: 2013).

Another study showed that men tend to animalize women (spontaneously associating them with words like “instinct”, “nature” drive “) or objectify (by associating the words “tool”, ” thing “…)have higher propensity to rape (Rowe: 2011).

Men and women animalize objectified and dehumanized women, but it appears nevertheless that the reason that lead to that differs. Indeed, a study suggests that women’s motivation is to distinguish objectified and sexualized images that represent them and they consider vulgar and superficial. It should be noted that dehumanize women who most objectified women are those most integrated beauty standards that have the greatest desire to please men, and have the highest level of self-objectification (Rowe: 2011). It could be that it is because these women see their peers as objectified body which can be compared, not as human persons. For men, it seems that it is sexual attraction that would lead to the objectification and dehumanization: instead reflect the personality and human qualities they consider in sexy women, they would focus more on their body. It should also be noted that men dehumanize women they are attracted sexually, even when they are not represented in an objectifying manner: the objectification occurs while mentally because they focus more on women’s bodies and forget their personality (Vaes et al: 2011).

According to a survey, overall, men and women found that advertising in magazines generally reflects a demeaning image of women. However, once again, women are more likely to find this demeaning image. Male respondents were mostly (62.5%) that advertising reflects an image or rewarding or demeaning of women.12.5% ​​of them consider this positive image, while 25%say the find demeaning. The women interviewed, for their part, consider mainly the image of women by demeaning advertising (81%). They are 19% to judge this neither rewarding nor demeaning and no woman interviewed (0%) found that advertising reflects a positive image of women.

Moreover, according to a study, four in ten British say they now struck by the way women are presented in advertising. According to the survey, women are the most shocked, but most men see nothing wrong cited by Stankiewicz & Rosselli (2008).

Overall, 41% of the British say they now “often shocked at the way women are shown in the advertisement, whether in magazines or billboards. But if this view is shared by almost one in two women (48%), men, two thirds of them, otherwise: 63% would have been only “rarely” (38%) or “never” (25%) shocked (Vaes et al: 2011).

These results indicate that the objectification leads to a dehumanization of women who are no longer perceived as whole persons. This mental process allows some men to use women as a thing whose desires and needs to be taken into account, particularly in the sexual context.

Thus, through the review of different survey, it can be concluded that the majority of the male and female population indicates being shocked by the image of women in advertising and the use of stereotypes. However, women as victims themselves are the most shocked (Vaes et al: 2011).

From the 70, women became more independent, more liberated, more confident. Indeed the rights of women are changing; they emancipate themselves. They gradually acquire some professional autonomy (through laws that allow them to work without the consent of their husbands) and claim the right to freely dispose of their bodies during sexual release.
The woman then left her housewife image and showed her body. However that sex is a subject that remained taboo (Busby & Leichty: 1993).


In the 80s, advertising started using the eroticism of women. Its purpose was to attract and seduce to sell. The female body was then used as an object. Later, during the 90s, it can be seen that this kind of advertising was becoming increasingly more shocking to make an impression. Everything was permitted. This was the birth of the “porno chic”. But customers do not recognize in the image of these dummies advertisements. In addition, women are sexist and offensive, that is why laws are gradually be put in place to regulate the image of women in advertising (Busby & Leichty: 1993).
Today, the ad features female models that transmit a certain image of the current consumer society. It further seeks to stick to the times and shows active and modern women for the majority of women in our society, who work and no longer spend their time looking after the household (Rowe: 2011).

Advertisers also know that their clientele is varied; they have no incentive to shock the part of the population more sensitive to too sexist representations. However, they remain cautious, afraid to take against the foot ambient gendered discourse born of socialization.
Finally, it can be estimated that hope is possible thanks to the feminization of the creative staff of advertising agencies (Rowe: 2011).

Chapter Three: Methodology

The aim of this section is to highlight and certify the methodology used in the research paper. The current research paper is based on secondary data.

3.1. Secondary Data Sources:

A comprehensive literature search was conducted for secondary data including online published journal articles, books, news articles, blogs, magazines etc. Internet search engine Google scholar has been the best source for collecting secondary data. The review of the literature enables to further analyze the key concepts and issues under study based on the existing research studies done in the past and to associate the current study with the existing ones.

The literature review has been conducted to analyze the representation of women’s body as sex symbols in men’s and women’s magazines. Despite of a significant number of studies conducted on this subject, there are some conflicts in the argument that women’s body is objectified in men’s magazines only when women’s magazines represent the same.

To carry out the objectives of the current project, previous research studies on the subject matter, advertising magazines, articles in the magazines, blogs and online information related to advertising women in men’s and women’s magazines were consulted. The treatment of women by the print media and the use of women in advertising in men’s and women’s magazines have been observed.

Research Design

The research is a descriptive study using qualitative method, based on evaluating the representation of women’s body as sex symbols in men’s and women’s magazines for advertising and how these image representation can be different. The research is based on secondary data based on previous studies conducting on the subject matter, online published articles, blogs, journal articles etc.

3.3. Data Analysis:

The final selected studies for the review were repetitively read and analyzed in full in order to ensure acquaintance with the data and for this it was necessary to extract and synthesize the findings of the reviewed studies. In studies related to such kind of subject in which the purpose is to identify association between two factors, often thematic analysis has been used as a variant for extraction and synthesis of the findings. However, for the current review, a form of directed content analysis was selected to be the most appropriate method for extracting relevant subject matter from the studies. The decision of using the directed content analysis was made when it became clear, after reading the studies repeatedly, that only this form of analysis would be the most appropriate in extracting the findings according to the objectification of women in men’s and women’s magazines in advertising. This form of analysis focuses on the research objectives using the existing concepts and proceeds as the basis for initial coding categories.

For analysis, the studies are categorized depending on the main findings and nature of the study in the findings section. Methodologically, the selected studies and sources were composed of mixed research designs: both qualitative and quantitative. Taking into account the heterogeneous nature of the methods and the methods of reporting findings used in the studies, a narrative synthesis was selected to be used to conduct review (Jackson & Waters, 2005). The narrative synthesis is method that creates a textual summary to explain in depth the findings of the multiple studies through an interpretive or integrative process. In other words, a narrative synthesis summarizes the results obtained by directed content analysis (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005).

Chapter Four: Discussion

Stereotypes and advertising have always gone well together. It cannot however be struck by the omnipresence of these stereotypes. The advertising being the primary means of communication with growing consumer must attract the attention of individuals (Nam et al: 2011). It frames people’s lives and although they do not always realize it dictates their choices as consumers, first, but also their behavioral choices. Its supports are diverse: TV, magazines, internet and media are full of advertisements for nearly all products that exist (Wallis: 2011).


In order to have the greatest possible impact and therefore to sell maximum, it exploits the clichés of everyday life and did not hesitate to exaggerate, see caricature. It uses stereotypes (also called “shots”), i.e. made ideas on a group of people regardless of individual differences. A snapshot is based from priories on behaviors, habits, personality traits and physical groups of people. For example, blondes are stupid, the French are romantic etc (Jacobus et al: 2013).

Though people are all affected by these stereotypes, women are their main victims. Indeed, it has become common to see women in gender roles. Advertising maintains these stereotypes? In order to best respond to this issue, these stereotypes should be represented here in which women are associated with household tasks, motherhood, cooking, cleaning etc (Nam et al: 2011). However, the main theme of this paper does not deal with these stereotypes but the stereotype of a sex symbol; the representation of women’s body as a sex symbol in men’s and women’s magazines and the difference between the two. Therefore, the main focus will be on the use of women’s body as sex symbols in advertising (Collins: 2011; Jacobus et al: 2013).

Woman occupies the front of the advertising scene. The stereotype of the woman object has long existed but is increasingly exploited. The aim is to attract the male gaze to the product and not to identify the female character to the product (Stankiewicz & Rosselli: 2008). The female body is but a mere instrument of seduction, or an object of desire. In some publicity woman is only there to attract attention, it only plays a role of provocation. There are more and more ads and images in magazines showing women in erotic poses and scenes to give the product more sensuality (Vaes et al: 2011).

sensuality      sensuality 2

The fatal woman: Then there is the fatale femme, a woman whose power of seduction is irresistible, a woman who seduces men. It is mainly described as insatiable woman. The stereotype of the femme fatale is a new stereotype (Wolf: 2013).


The advertising is intended to attract potential consumers to sell a product. Yet for decades, advertisers are desperate to sell as create stereotypes, stripping, shock etc. Women are prone to many stereotypes, women exposed to the scent (as shown below), stereotypes of the housewife and word games to the cream (ad above) (Mager, J., & Helgeson: 2011).


Thus, due to stereotypes, some consumers can identify with the players in these advertisements. The first aspect to be analyzed is the goal of these representations (Mager, J., & Helgeson: 2011). According to Denis C. Meyer, a specialist in cultural representations, women do two roles in advertising:

  1. Product Illustration: The women’s image must necessarily be linked to the product sold; this suggests that it is the only consumer (Mager, J., & Helgeson: 2011).
Mager  Helgeson
  1. Subject to “Association with the product”: The woman is secondary and “part of the scenery”, there is a total mismatch between the product and the presence of women, most often represented in a sexy way. Such representation of women’s body can be seen in men’s magazines (Mager, J., & Helgeson: 2011).
body  car

But this marketing strategy does not always prove lucrative. For example the Dior brand which has been criticized for sexist representations (Stankiewicz & Rosselli: 2008). The sale of Dior perfumes and cosmetics represented £ 2,868 million in 2008 and fell to £ 2,741 million in 2009 representing a decrease of 4% in 1 year (Davis: 2013). Increasingly, signs like Dior, Chiffon; D & G (as shown below) gradually peel the clothes, the pride and dignity that women were able to acquire all these years. Advertisers do not want to go unnoticed in order to sell. The image below shows a woman oppressed by a group of men (Mager, J., & Helgeson: 2011).

group of men

Another such example of depiction of women’s body in men’s magazines in an advertisement is the PlayStation ad. A campaign of PlayStation in France compared the two touch screens with a woman with 4 breasts capable of providing twice sensations. Objectification is to consider the other as a simple object which can be used, forgetting that it is a person (Stankiewicz & Rosselli: 2008). Kant says in a slightly more elegant way: “Always treat others as an end and never only as a means “. This is not only a person sexualization, objectification and sexualization although often go together cited by (Vaes et al: 2011).

Headless woman

Headless woman, two breasts, compared to a game console and clearly made for the amusement of men: PlayStation gives us a wonderful example of objectification

In some cases, objectification is obvious, but others may be less obvious. The American sociologist Caroline Heldman designed the Test of Sexual Object (TOS), which identifies the presence of sexual objectification in images to an affirmative answer to the following question:

1) The image shows only a part or parts of the body of the person? (Stankiewicz & Rosselli: 2008).

A headless woman, for example, facilitates it as a single body to erase any hint of individuality transmitted by the faces, eyes and eye contact with the person of the picture. A number of such images have been represented above for example, PlayStation ad, Williams Gel ad etc.

2) Displays the image in a sexualized person acting as a support for an object?

in a sexualized person acting

3) Displays the image in a sexualized person who can be exchanged or renewed at any time?

The “interchangeability” is a common element in advertising and reinforces the notion that women like objects, are fungible (used and discarded). Like objects, “the more the better”, an idea that clears the individual value of each woman (Vaes et al: 2011). In these images of Victoria’s Secret shows a group of women, and often touching aligned to each other. All are almost identical, despite having skin tones and slightly different hair, and dress the same way (Stankiewicz & Rosselli: 2008).


4) Does the image to a sexualized person being humiliated or humiliated without your consent?

In Dolce & Gabbana ad (shown above) a vulnerable and helpless woman becomes a simple object that is about to be enjoyed by five men.

In a curious case that appeared in a Belgian magazine for men, it is suggested that the only way that this attractive woman consents that targets something inside will be if the person donates an organ, which in turn raises interesting implications for altruistic motives of the donor and who is worthy of such a gift (Kuhn: 2013).

worthy of such a gift

The general climate of objectification and self-objectification entails that it has important implications for women.  The book Self-Objectification in Women: Causes, Consequences, and counteractions summarizes that,

“The modern industrialized society objectifies the female body from chronic, widespread and many women have come to see themselves through the eyes of an outside observer, usually minding their own appearance whatsoever in a public setting or private” (cited by Stacey: 2013)

The woman is not an object: Sometimes advertisements exploit the female body to sell products that have no links with nudity. It becomes an object of desire and is usually staged in positions that highlight a beautiful body, sexy, attractive. In men’s magazines this happens always (Stacey: 2013). This is reinforced by the cutting of parts of the female body (breasts, buttocks, usually mouth), like so many “consumer products” separated (Vaes et al: 2011).

consumer products

The above ad is one of the examples that represent the woman as an object: The ad above showing a woman breast pillow for a man represents the woman as an object, although the woman’s body has nothing to do with the product of men’s gel, at least not in this way. But today it has become a trend, to represent women’s body almost nude in advertisements of products like shaving gels, cars, men’s perfumes etc. (Vaes et al: 2011). Thus, through advertising, sexism oversees the world permeates our society and our representations of women and with men (Gill: 2008).

Constantly, in women’s magazines, advertising is to project the image of idealized women, for the majority of its products. Indeed, these women have almost all the same characteristics: they are young, beautiful, tall and thin: it is a flawless model that is returned to consumers (Young: 2005).

returned to consumers

In this advertisement, women in underwear, exposing their bodies; they are large, young and thin, almost skinny.

This format standardizes the female body and condemns millions of women to copy inaccessible models. Unfortunately, consumers forget that the bodies of actresses and advertising models are often redone using software like Photoshop (Davis: 2013).

Advertising keeps telling women that their body is an imperfect object that demands to be constantly maintained. Thus, a cult of thinness settled in our society, especially among young girls and adolescents, causing serious consequences (Durham: 1998):

  • 5% of teenagers are affected by anorexia in UK and that this sad reality results from the combination of several factors, the cult of thinness caused by the publicity that is one of the main reasons (Wolf: 2013).
  • In 2005, the a female magazinereported that 35% of young girls had already taken at least one plan and that 50-70% of them believed that being overweight when their weight was quite normal (Wolf: 2013)
  • According to another report, the females are trying to control their weight at the very early age of twelve years (Smolak: 2013).

age of twelve years

This image is from an advertisement of the brand The Kooples. The actress is extremely thin.

So these are figures that illustrate the serious alarming influence of   advertising on the identity of women.   However, despite being the worst consequence of this cult of perfection, anorexia is not the only impact of the advertising harassment. Moreover, women find such an irrational fear of aging caused by the presence of women without wrinkles or imperfections in advertisements in women’s magazines (Davis: 2013).

women’s magazines

Advertising sales above the “rejuvenating powers” of a product; the actress is not natural, skin changes

More and more “wrinkle” or “anti-buttons” products are on the market, demonstrating the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns and their influence on the identity of women, whatever their age (Davis: 2013). The feminist activist Jean Kilbourne said in the documentary Killing Us Softly she was tired of hearing the same question when talking about the representation of women in the media: “He has been talking about this issue forty years. Have not improved things? “His answer was, sadly, not only should say no but, in fact, things had worsened. The ads not only sell products, also they sell securities, images and concepts about love, sexuality, success, and perhaps most importantly, sell an image of normalcy. People largely dictate not only what they are, but what they should be (Kilbourne: 2012).

And what the advertisements tell about women? They tell people that the most important and essential in our lives is our physical appearance. But, above all, the first thing they teach us is what advertising campaigns is the ideal feminine beauty (Wolf: 2013). Women learn from an early age that they need to invest huge amounts of time, energy and, above all, money, to achieve this ideal and feel ashamed and guilty when they fail. However, defeat is unavoidable (Rowe: 2011).

Beauty model magazines sell advertising is based on perfection. Women in ads do not have lines or wrinkles, scars and certainly have no grains and, in fact, they have no pores. But most important of this perfection is unattainable (Wolf: 2013). Nobody looks like this, not even their own models of advertising. Supermodel Cindy Crawford said: “I wish I had the look of Cindy Crawford.” I did not, and it was impossible that it had, because his image was created over the years through makeup and retouching (Rowe: 2011).

Kate Winslet talked a lot in the beginning of her career on her refusal to be dominated by the dictates of the industry’s image and weight control. The acclaimed actress is not only beautiful, but also has a sexy and voluptuous silhouette, so it is not surprising that the magazine QC wanted her out on the cover. What is strange that they retouched both her figure and completely disappeared curves. The actress then issued a press release stating that the retouching was done without her permission and said “I have not that look and, more importantly, I do not want to look like that. I can guarantee that reduced the size of my legs at least a third. “(Smolak: 2013)

at least a third

Kate Winslet thinned to be almost unrecognizable on the cover of the magazine QC (Smolak: 2013)

The first thing is to realize that this reality exists, pay attention and accept that affects everyone. This obsession with beauty, perfection, the extreme thinness is a public health problem that can only be resolved by changing the environment around us and enslaves (Collins: 2011).

Women’s Magazines Objectify Women Just as Much as Men’s Magazines Do

Despite of much debate and the criticism faced by the images of women shown in men’s magazines, another popular culture today is that the same general formula is being followed by both men’s and women’s magazines. Both men’s and women’s magazines are based heavily around eroticized images of women (Driscoll: 2013). The image shown below is one of its examples. However, this has not been agreed upon by many and only a few believe or point out this similarity.

point out this similarity


According to the editor of Esquire UK, Alex Bilmes admitted that men’s magazines objectify women; however he added that they provide girls pictures in men’s magazines in the same way as the pictures of cool cars are provided. He further admitted that women images are ornamental and the same is done by women’s magazines. Another argument made by him is that women’s images in women’s magazines are more harmful that the men’s magazines as more rigid and damaging beauty standards are enforced by women’s magazines that the men’s (Frith et al: 2005). Bilmes’s argument has been criticized by many such as Amanda Marcotte for his unconvincing rationalization but he, undoubtedly, has raised an interesting question: why women’s magazines are not different from men’s magazines? http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/womens-magazines-objectify-women-just-as-much-as-mens-magazines-do/274330/

This question seems valid if the magazines Esquire and Vogue are observed. Why these two magazines represent the same that it seems that they are selling to the same gendered things when in real these two magazines have different target consumers i.e. selling products to different gendered people (Kuhn: 2013).

Different interpretations have been given in response to this claim. One such example is Sharon Marcus’s some possible and surprising answers in her 2007 book Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England. Friendship between women holds an important place in Victorian England. It does not mean that an eroticized women image shown in a women’s magazine is because she is a lesbian but it is just because she is a woman.  The friendship between women can be platonic, or sexual or somewhere in the middle but overall perceived as normal http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/womens-magazines-objectify-women-just-as-much-as-mens-magazines-do/274330/ .

Although we are a long way from the Victorian era in all ways, the ideas remain to be quite recognizable which shows that the claim Bilmes made is quite accurate. Comparing men’s and women’s magazines shows that both are using the women’s images in the same way for similar erotic reasons. In a men’s magazine an erotic image of a woman is perceived to be as a sex object represented to attract the men. In the same way, as the image above shows, an erotic image of a woman is meant to attract women and to attain that eroticism to attract their men.

Thus both men’s and women’s magazines objectify women (Kuhn: 2013). Despite of different audiences, the same thing is done by both, the reason men’s magazine look very similar to women’s magazines today. They objectify women to provoke the desires of their readers (Gill: 2008).

Moreover, the offenders are not only the magazines. Excessive nudity or semi-naked flesh can be observed all around on bill boards, TV, on internet etc. Sex has been used as a matter of routine to sell by advertisers (Wallis: 2011). It does not mean that it is then OK to use women’s body as sex symbols in magazines but the problem is that women’s magazines are also objectifying women; magazines written by women to women. In fact, some believe that it is the women’s magazines that originated the objectification of women (Wolf: 2013; Rowe: 2011).

It is believed that women’s magazines provide more harm to the self-esteem of women than the men’s magazines. The readers of the women’s magazines are bombarded with the images of female celebrities accompanied by cruel comments about their physical imperfections, their weight, their cellulites, stretchmarks, fatness etc. (Bordo: 2003).  Such reviews are punctuated by advertisements in which a beautiful model is selling a bag or a shoe or a perfume, with a suggestion that buying the product will make the reader like the beautiful model. Ironically, the women’s images in men’s magazines although provocative, are more realistic as compared to that represented by women’s magazines (Morry & Staska: 2001). Men’s magazines do not show zero size women as they are not attracted to skinny, androgynous, anorexic images that can be seen in abundance in women’s magazines. In women’s magazines, the images of women’s body setup unrealistic expectations for women regarding their bodies (Young: 2005).

Chapter Five: Conclusion

Today, the advertising world is in a context of consumerism where one pushes us to buy more rather than buy what you really need. Girls are a key consumer customer and are often targeted by advertisements, either to sell their makeup, clothes, perfume or accessories of all kinds that were once rather the case of adult women! We will return when we tell you the concept of hyper in the section on sexuality. Everywhere, women’s bodies are used as a marketing strategy. It is used both to sell products to women: makeup, clothes, jewelry and, of course, household products (as if only women could do the cleaning!), But also men: beer, car, watch, etc.

These ads, which show off the feminine attributes, contribute to objectify women, that is to say, to reduce it to an object: a sexual object bound to satisfy the desires of men. That is why we call these advertisements “sexist”. These sexist advertisements also depict women and men differently. Indeed, women are often represented in a position of submission and vulnerability and men in positions of domination and control. In addition, women often find themselves in a setting that evokes dreams and passivity, and the men, the quest and action. Not to mention the hyper sexualized image of women (open mouth, eyes and provocative smile) suggesting a thinly veiled sexual availability. “I’m all yours,” seem to say the models of magazines for men (Davis: 1990).

These stereotypical representations contribute to reinforce inequalities between men and women and to convey the following idea: the woman exists only through the eyes of man; as an object of his desire. These same ads also suggest that all women want to seduce men and that they are all attracted to women. This is what is called enforced heterosexuality (or heterosexism), that is to say, the pressure to comply with the heterosexual norm, while denying the existence of other sexual orientations. Again, these representations do not give any room for diversity.

Men have a right socially tolerated and even encouraged: to inspect and evaluate the bodies of women. Women are turned into sex objects through this look, which reduces them to their bodies or to parts of their body. The male gaze is manifested by sexual harassment: leering possibly accompanied evaluator’s comments. Furthermore, studies have shown the look that women are literally viewed as objects: their body is not seen as a whole, but is visually dismembered.

Finally, the objectifying look is not content to be in the eye of some men, but requires being admired and attractive. It is indeed omnipresent in the magazines and all other media … But being exposed to such representations is not without consequences. This exposure leads to dissatisfaction of women towards their bodies, an increase of self-objectification, and of eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia). Representations of objectified women could also give a negative image of women to dehumanized men; they no longer appear as whole persons but as things whose needs do not need to be taken into account. Being exposed to such representations therefore promotes adherence to rape myths and increases the propensity to rape.


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